Alien Abuse Story: part1 by Stephane Portha

The idea of starting Alien Abuse came on our mind because we are fans of the game Abuse released in 1996 by crack.com.

To understand this story a little bit of history about abuse is needed:

Abuse is a run and gun video game developed by
Crack dot Com and published by Origin/EA in 1996 for Dos and Linux, later an improved port of the game was released for Mac by Bungie Software

In July 1997 the game source code and shareware data have been released to the public domain, some levels were not put in the public domain because the game was still sold in shop.

In October 1998 crack.com announces it is officialy out of business

Jonathan Clark Co-owner of crack.com explained his motivation with releasing game source code and data to the public in this article:

Rather than letting all that hard work sit around and rot, we released it to the public domain.

In 2000, a project named frabs was created and hosted on the crack.com web site to make a completely free version of abuse by replacing the non public domain version of the levels.

Early in 2001 A port of Abuse was made for the SDL library, in August 2001, Anthony Kruize the author of Abuse SDL received authorization from Dave Taylor to make the original Abuse datafiles files available for free download to everyone !

Later these levels and sounds files were made available to a huge amount of people including Linux Debian and OpenBsd distributions.

Alien Abuse Story: part2 by Stephane Portha

Making a port for iPhone was looking perfectly legal seeing that source code and shareware data were public domain and registered levels were released to the public

Also:
  • The trademark “abuse” was DEAD
  • The company owning the name crack.com was out of business
  • The game was not sold any more on shop and the port of the game for Mac was already 10 year old.
So we started porting the game in February 2009 and after some brainstorming we came to the name “Alien Abuse”.

To be sure to not get any problem, we decided to write an email to Jonathan Clark (the main programmer) to ask him if it will be a problem to release the game on iPhone. We also asked him if using the name "Alien abuse" will be a problem.

After more than two weeks of waiting for an answer we thought that Jonathan was too busy to reply or not interested in this project. So we decided to not bother him any more with our project.

Alien Abuse story: part3

Porting the game on iPhone/iPod was more work than expected, the SDL port was by far too slow and we discovered a lot of problems (memory leak, graphical bugs...). The Multiplayer code was made for IPX and later ported to Tcp/ip but after lot of testing and long nights of debuging we decided it would be too much work to make it reliable for iPhone/iPod.

We packaged a first version of the game using fraps levels and some other good levels made by the community and made the game available to a few people. At this time we also released a video on Youtube.

Testers reported that the game was too hard and that the original game files will be better than the fraps levels. Since the game was no more distributed and registered data was available for free with the SDL version we replaced the fraps levels with the original files and we repacked a new version with these files.

Alien Abuse story: part4: Dave Taylor

I was at the Game Developer Conference in SF when Dave Taylor contacted us saying we were violating Dave Taylor and Jonathan Clark rights on the trademarks and we should secure a license. My original Email asking permissions was included in this email confirming that Jonathan Clark and Dave Taylor had previously received the Email.

I replied that to my knowledge the trademark was expired and no more in use so it shoudn’t be a problem.

Dave Taylor then asked to meet me at the Game Developer Conference; I accepted;

Surprisingly Dave Taylor didn’t come alone but with an attorney, the meeting was one of the worst we ever had.

Dave Taylor was very aggressive and was constantly threatening; he didn’t care about anything else than:

  • Take control of the game.
  • Reuse our code and adaptation
  • Make the distribution of the game and give back a few percent to us (5% at most), saying that we should be very happy about such deal because he could have decided to not give anything back to us.

Alien Abuse story: part5

After this meeting we decided to write an Email to Jonathan Clark and Dave Taylor:
  • Explaining again the whole situation
  • Saying that we were very disappointed by such harsh meeting.
We received an answer from Dave Taylor saying that:
  • It could have been a tragic misunderstanding.
  • We are sitting on a big opportunity to make money if we are using this story to advertise the game.
In the meantime we released a new version spending again time to polish the game by redoing some controls / correcting bugs / adding features asked by the community.
Before we get an opportunity to answer, we received a new Email from Dave Taylor saying that:
  • We are not inspiring him with our responsiveness
  • He contacted again a friend at Apple that explains him the process to get the game pulled and explain that we were probably blowing smoke his ass saying we were not doing lot of money with the game.
  • He will not wait until April 13 like previously said but will request the game to be pulled on Monday April 6.
We decided to give a last try and replied to Dave Taylor:
  • Giving again all the facts: The game is public domain, The shareware data are public domain, The registered levels have been given for free, The trademark is DEAD and no more in use.
  • Proposing 3 solutions:
  1. Accept his proposal but not provide confidential marketing data: marketing is managed by a third party company under Non disclosure agreement. Also we don’t want him to use anything that can hurt our company (Like giving to journalist some quick story just to make some buzz)
  2. Pull out the game from AppStore but asking some delay to release update and correct bugs for actual customers
  3. Work on a Premium version of the game (Preferred Option) , this Premium version of the game will provide a rewritten multiplayer version of the game + new content. Profit of the game will be shared with him.

Alien Abuse story: part6

We asked him to provide some information about who owns the rights on the game and data: crack.com is not existing any more so who owns the rights?

The reply from Dave Taylor was quick to come:
  • No comments about the game being public domain and nothing about the trademark.
  • The percentage is not negotiable
  • He wants all data including confidential marketing under NDA
  • He is offering very fair term considering that we have entered in negotiation in violation of copyrights and trademark.
  • Whether we settle or not this story will go public and we can decide if we want to make profit or not from it and enjoy revenues from the publicity.
  • About 40 people are already aware of what we have done including some very big names and that he have had nary a kind word to say about me and Eurocenter. Adding that if we settle to the term he will reverse that trend.
  • He doesn’t care about us recovering our costs.
  • He is asking a quick answer to accept his condition and said again that he will contact Apple on Monday April 6 for the takedown.

Alien Abuse Story: part7

After this last Email it became obvious to us that we will not find any agreement with this guy and we decided to reply to him that we will not speak any more with him until he show proper paper that he is representing crack.com and other people involved in this story (music composer, Jonathan Clark) and give attorney contact to speak with.

We received a strange answer from Dave Taylor saying that he will not be able to provide the documents and finishing the Email with: “Congratulations, I suppose.”

We thought that this story was over when we received an appstore notive from Apple saying that Apple received a DMCA notice from Crack dot Com ("Crack") that Crack believes that "Alien Abuse" infringes Crack's rights.

Basicly Apple policy was simple: Resolve the problem with Mister Taylor or we pull out the game from Appstore.

It was obvious in this scenario that Mister Taylor just had to wait for Apple to take the decision, and that was what happened on August 13 when Apple removed Alien Abuse from Appstore.

Alien Abuse Story: part8

On August 13, Abuse Classic has been released to Appstore and apparently with Dave Taylor as producer and a third party game company as developer.

We then discovered that Dave Taylor was making defamation against Eurocenter claiming everywhere that we had illegaly released Alien abuse to appstore.

Thanks for reading this long story and we hope that you have been able to make your own opinion reading this story and that you will feel like us that Dave Taylor is wrong attacking us just because we were fan of a game and had the idea to revive it (11 years after the bankruptcy of crack.com and the release of Abuse as public domain software).